IPs who ‘escaped’ from UCCP compound in Davao return to Kapalong

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DAVAO CITY – The 31 members of the Ata-Manobo tribe who reportedly escaped from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Compound in Madapo Hills, this city, over the weekend have finally returned home to their ancestral land in Kapalong, Davao del Norte Tuesday.

Their return to Sitios Lono-Lono, Muling, and Tawinian in Barangay Gupitan followed a debriefing or case conference conducted by the local government of Kapalong on Tuesday.

The Kapalong police reported that the IPs, accompanied by personnel of the Army’s 60 Infantry Battalion, arrived at the Kapalong Municipal Police Station on Saturday night.

Of the 31 rescued, 10 are of legal age and 21 minors of whom 13 are aged below 10 years old. The youngest are two children who are both two years old while the oldest is 55 years old.

The Kapalong police said they conducted custodial investigation, documentary, and profiling on the rescued persons. The IPs were also brought to Davao del Norte District Hospital-Kapalong Zone for medical and physical examination before they were turned over to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD).

They have been secured by the 60th Infantry Battalion after their reported escape from UCCP Haran on Saturday with the help of some tribal leaders and the Kapalong local government.

The escape of the lumads was known after 23-year-old Jovelyn Tiklonay of Barangay Suawon, New Corella, Davao del Norte, personally appeared at the Kapalong Police Station to report information she received from a fellow tribe member at the UCCP Haran.

Tiklonay had told police that one of her colleagues in UCCP Haran informed her he escaped along with the 30 other Ata Manobos by jumping over the back fence of the compound.

Tiklonay said the IPs had wanted to return home to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, and they were asking for a vehicle to take them home from Davao City because their money was not enough to travel. Most of them are residents of Sitio Muling.

In an interview on Tuesday, Col. Eugene Osias, the assistant chief of staff for Civil-Military Operations (CMO) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), confirmed the rescue on Saturday started around 4 p.m. The IPs arrived in Kapalong at almost 10 p.m., he added.

“Rescued were 21 children and 10 adults, so overall there are 31,” said Osias. “They jumped over the fence so that no one can prevent them from leaving.”

Osias said the Kapalong municipal government led by its information officer and two tribal leaders helped in the rescue of the 31 IPs including women and children.

“The rescued IPs were brought to Kapalong and were given de-briefing by the local government unit,” he said.

“We will look into the individual security of every Filipino especially those within the area of the Eastern Mindanao Command,” said Osias, vowing to help the LGUs especially on the security concern of the IPs and local officials.

“We are committed to helping every individual here in Eastern Mindanao Command,” he added.

According to Osias, there could be at least 50 IPs still in UCCP Haran where they have stayed since 2016. 

In a statement, the Pasaka–an IP organization–denied any IP had fled the compound.

“It has been our stand as Lumad bakwet here in Haran to allow Lumad families to go home. We recognize the right of every Lumad and we do not refuse such request,” the statement said.

Pasaka claimed that Datu Basing Balanban, Dol-om Tumagsa, and Jovelyn Tiklunay arrived with soldiers in civilian clothes and forced some families to leave Haran on Saturday. (PNA)

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